TIFF, Mirvish to require proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test from attendees

Both the Toronto International Film Festival and Mirvish Productions will require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test from attendees, organizers announced on Monday.

Announcements fall in line with numerous other returning in-person events

Both the Toronto International Film Festival and Mirvish Productions will require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test, organizers announced on Monday. (David Donnelly/CBC)

Both the Toronto International Film Festival and Mirvish Productions will require all attendees to submit proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test before entering associated venues.

TIFF organizers announced the update to their health and safety protocols on Monday, a reverse from earlier statements when the festival's co-heads said there were no plans to require vaccinations. 

The festival, which is scheduled to take place in Toronto from Sept. 9-18, is following the hybrid model it established last year. In a June interview, artistic director and co-head Cameron Bailey told CBC News that they were "inviting every film to present to audiences, both in person and on the digital platform," and suggested that model will become a permanent part of TIFF moving forward. Public digital screenings are limited to Canadian audiences.

At the time, Bailey and fellow co-head Joana Vicente said audience members would have to wear a mask when in physical attendance, while a vaccine requirement was "not in the cards" at the time.

Organizers repeated that stance earlier this month, stating that proof of vaccination would not be required, though actors, filmmakers and TIFF executives would need to be routinely tested. As part of that plan, international guests were required to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test taken within 48 hours of entering the festival. Monday's announcement brings that requirement in for all attendees, regardless of where they're travelling from. 

"TIFF has taken great care and consideration in implementing these TIFF specific protocols to mitigate risk to audiences and guests attending TIFF," Vicente and Bailey were quoted as saying in a Monday press release. "We have relied on municipal and provincial medical direction and advice on rapid testing and we expect this will provide another level of clarity and comfort for all 2021 festival-goers."

TIFF's requirement falls in line with many other returning in-person events. The Venice Film festival, scheduled to begin on Sept. 1, is also requiring all attendees to show proof of vaccination or a negative test, while Live Nation Canada announced last week that vaccination requirements will soon be enforced at "as many shows as possible."

Also on Monday, Mirvish Productions stated that it will allow only fully vaccinated people into its venues for its upcoming season, which includes a Canadian production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and the return of musical hits Hamilton and Come From Away.

The cast of Come From Away appear in this promotional shot supplied by Mirvish Productions. The musical, along with several other delayed shows, will welcome audiences in the coming months — assuming they are fully vaccinated. (Cylla von Tiedemann/Mirvish Productions)

The Toronto theatre giant made the announcement in a news release for its new lineup, saying the vaccination rule applies to people onstage, backstage and in the audience.

Exceptions include children younger than 12 and those who cannot be vaccinated for medical or faith-based reasons. Those people can provide a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of attending a show.

Mirvish reopened its doors for indoor performances earlier this month, after an 18-month pandemic closure, with the audio-based stage show Blindness under COVID-19 protocols at the Princess of Wales Theatre.

For the initial sold-out run of Blindness, which will return to the same theatre on Sept. 24, audiences did not have to provide proof of vaccination. A company representative told The Canadian Press earlier this month Mirvish was considering such a requirement for future performances but was hoping for "an effective and legitimate passport" from the government.

A total of 11 shows make up Mirvish's new lineup, with others including Room by Canadian author Emma Donoghue; the North American premiere of Tom Stoppard's Olivier Award-winning masterwork Leopoldstadt with the original London production; and revivals of classics including Jesus Christ Superstar and 2 Pianos, 4 Hands.

With files from The Canadian Press


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